They were not there to pass a joint or barter seeds.

The first members of the Battle Creek Compassion Club met Thursday to share information about marijuana for medical use. Seven people attended the meeting.

A middle-aged couple from Sturgis sat in a half-moon booth at Roger's restaurant with Greg Francisco, founder of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association.

The couple did not reveal their names, fearing retaliation from co-workers, they said. Another man across the table also didn't want his name in the paper.

But compassion club meetings like this one, and dozens across the state, have cropped up since Michigan citizens voted to legalize marijuana for medical use last year.

"We at the association are speaking up for people who are afraid," Francisco said.

One man did speak up about his battle with Hepatitis C and how marijuana could be the miracle drug he's hoping for.

Bill Hutchins, 24, of Battle Creek contracted the blood-borne pathogen while living with an uncle who had Hepatitis C. He suspects his uncle used one of his razor blades without telling him.

The disease can cause liver cirrhosis and cancer. There is no vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hutchins said the disease and the $4,000 per week in drugs his doctor prescribes make him lose his appetite and he can't sleep, causing extreme fatigue.

When he uses marijuana, however, "it makes me want to eat, that's for sure, and it calms me down," he said.

So a couple days ago, Hutchins said, he met with a doctor in Albion who prescribed marijuana to ease his symptoms.

He also paid the $100 application fee to obtain a registration card that validates his prescription, which he said should arrive in the mail soon.

It will allow Hutchins and a designated caregiver to possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana or 12 plants for personal use.

The law is unclear about how patients can obtain the marijuana if they or their caregivers do not grow it themselves.

"There's a lot of grey area," Hutchins said. "I think it will be a lot of trial and error."

Hopefully, he said, police will not make the mistake of arresting him for illegal possession of marijuana.

Hutchins said he plans to use marijuana in addition to his shots and pills.

People with other chronic conditions -- not just terminal diseases -- also can obtain a prescription for marijuana, and Hutchins encouraged them to consider the option.

Hutchins, in fact, thinks marijuana should be legal for non-medical use as well. Allowing patients to obtain it is a step in the right direction.

"I feel like it's about time," he said. "I don't see what the big deal is anyway."

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Source: Battle Creek Enquirer (MI)
Copyright: 2009 Battle Creek Enquirer
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Author: Elizabeth Willis